Critical Section

Archive: December 2014

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sailing into the future

Tuesday,  12/02/14  10:34 PM

sailing into the futureKottke links a great video, "Wanderers", narrated by Carl Sagan: "a glimpse of the fantastic and beautiful nature that surrounds us on our neighboring worlds - and how it might appear to us if we were there."  Excellent.

Bertalan Mesko: IBM Watson is the stethoscope of the 21st century.  "If AI can improve a chess player, it can improve a physician as well."  IBM have been casting about for commercial applications where Watson delivers value; expert decision support like advising physicians seems to be one of them.  Onward!

This is quite amazing: "In Paterson, New Jersey only 19 kids who took the SAT’s are considered college ready. This means that they scored at least a 1500 out of 2400 on the standardized test, and this number is truly shocking considering how large the school district is."  So, is the problem the schools, the parents, or the students themselves?  Well...  "the Paterson school district said that they no longer use SAT scores to gauge students’ success."

America's Cup - next one NOT in San FranciscoIn response to the announcement that the next America's Cup competition will take place in Bermuda (despite the current victors Team Oracle are from America), the Horse's Mouth notes "my gosh, there's no place to sail in the USA".  I think Bermuda is a perfectly fine venue, but watching those cats scream across San Francisco Bay in the last 'Cup was pretty cool.

Stephen HawkingI just recently had a chance to see "The Theory of Everything", the new movie out about Stephen Hawking (it's pretty good ... worth the watch), and so found this story most interesting: Giving Stephen Hawking a Voice.  Incredible that he was able to write books only by moving a muscle in his cheek.

Well I guess we knew this: Attending meetings lowers IQ.  One of the great things about running a cool little startup is that we have very few meetings.


another trip around the sun

Wednesday,  12/03/14  09:05 PM

another trip around the sunHappy Birthday ... to me!  Yep, I've just completed another trip around the sun.  One of my most eventful, actually, and I can't wait to see what the next one will be like.




Wednesday,  12/03/14  10:21 PM

checkpoint!A quick checkpoint as I pass the finish line of another trip around the sun...

Mark Cuban's 12 rules for startups.  Many of these are pretty cliche, but I like #12: Make the job fun for employees.  As you know I think "fun" are the things which make you feel good about yourself, so this translates to make your employees' jobs make them feel good about themselves.  A great goal.

Richard Feynman: no ordinary geniusNow on YouTube: Richard Feynman, no ordinary geniusExcellent.

A lot of people have Feynman stories, I have two.  First, he played bongo drums at my parent's wedding.  (My Dad was a postdoc at Caltech at the time, back in 1957.)  Second, when I was a freshman at Caltech, Feynman was still there but no longer actively teaching.  One day everyone was notified the next freshman physics lecture will not be in the usual room, instead, it will be in <the largest teaching theater at the school>.  The rumors began ... Feynman is giving a guest lecture!  Sure enough, he was.  The room was filled, not only with undergraduates but with graduates and postdocs and professors and administrators.  He was a *great* speaker; interesting, funny, and enthusiastic.  His subject was Special Relativity, and walking out of the two hour lecture I actually felt that for the first time I *truly* understood this arcane concept, not only enough to solve test problems, but enough to think about it.  That feeling passed quickly and by the next day I was back to mere mortal status as a physics student, but I'll never forget that feeling of epiphany.  He was most definitely no ordinary genius.

The super simple phone hack that will transform your productivity.  Spoiler: turn off notifications.  Seems ... hmmm ... that I've heard that advice before, somewhere...

Seth Godin has a new book out: What to do when it's your turn.  "This is an urgent call to do the work we're hiding from, a manifesto about living with things that might not work and embracing tension when doing your art."  Cool!  Cannot wait to read it...

Onward, let the next trip begin...


physics or sorcery?

Saturday,  12/06/14  10:56 PM

table held up by buckets resting on itHere we have a table held up by the buckets resting on it.  Yay.  Yeah, it's physics, not sorcery.  The gravitational pull on the buckets pulls them down, which in turn pulls the table up.  When the buckets are resting on the table they're still being pulled down, but the table counterbalances the force.  As long as the buckets are heavier than the table, this is going to work.

power tower feeding frenzy psycho festivalOf "the power tower feeding frenzy" and hyper-large numbers.  "You know how sometimes you go through life, and you’re lost but you don’t even know it, and then one day, the right person comes along and you realize what you had been looking for this whole time?  That’s how I feel about Graham’s number."  I love this; all the ways to represent really big finite numbers.  What's especially cool is that each notation "maxes out", and then a new notation is needed to keep going.  (Yes, Virginia, we are told there are an infinite number of notational systems, but we aren't told what they are :)  After you think about this for a while, you realize ... whoa.

Orion liftoffHey guess what?  NASA have successfully launched Orion!  This is the next step in a progression that eventually puts people on Mars.  Yippee.

The two-sided YotaPhoneThe YotaPhone.  Two sides, zero gimmicks.  Not such a terrible idea, really ... the e-ink side can always be on for notifications, and respond to input without unlocking, while the LCD side is for more directed interactions.  Wouldn't mind trying this.

Asking the important questions: What if girls were browsers?  What if guys were social networks?  Hehe.

what if girls were browsers and guys were social networks?


a few fallacies

Thursday,  12/11/14  10:46 PM

correlation vs causalityA few fallacies, for your consideration...  #1 is my personal favorite, correlation vs causality.

Speaking of fallacies, Minimum Wage, Maximum Ignorance.  "Once upon a time, the minimum wage, like free trade, was a basic test of whether you were awake in the first week of econ 1."  Of all the liberal economic canards, this one is my favorite.  Socialism does not work, period.

[Update: Elizabeth Warren: Minimum Wage Would Be $22 An Hour If It Had Kept Up With Productivity.  This is a beautiful example of both fallacies highlighted above, combined!]

Paul Graham: The Final Pinch.  "There may be nothing founders are so prone to delude themselves about, as how interested investors will be in giving them additional funding."  Ouch.

[apparently] sinking tablewareThis is pretty cool: Tableware appears to sink into the table.  These mats could be useful for explaining gravity :)

Ev Williams, founder of Blogger, Twitter, and Medium, [re]launches a venture fund called Obvious Corp.  Cool!

skiing line of the year = batshit crazy!And finally, I agree with Kottke: this skiing line of the year is batshit crazy.  Just when you think you've seen everything, you realize "everything" is so much more than you thought.


Tuesday,  12/16/14  10:52 PM

enhanced interrogationI'm pretty conflicted about the recent Senate Intelligence Committee report about the CIA's "enhanced interrogation techniques".  On the one hand, these people were animals, and many lives might have been saved.  On the other hand, any torture for any purpose seems reprehensible.  I guess if these prisoners were truly guilty and these techniques truly elicited information which could have prevented terrorist attacks, then I'm okay with it.  Big ifs, though.

I agree with Glenn Reynolds, who is unenthused that Jeb Bush is running for President.  I think he was a decent governor but I wish he wasn't named Bush.  I have the same issue with Hillary Clinton, minus the "decent governor" part.

McKinsey: mobile consumer decision processFrom McKinsey: Busting mobile shopping myths.  I pretty much disagree with all of this.  The premise is that mobile shoppers already know what they want from a mobile shopping experience.  But that experience keeps changing.  For example many mobile shoppers don't know that visual search could be part of their shopping experience.  If they knew, they would want it, but they don't.  Retailers and tech companies have to work together to devise the perfect solution.

Six drivers of the $700B mobile internet.  Yeah that's a B.  Giving people what they already want is not on the list.

And in China, Alibaba's Alipay now sees over half of its transactions from mobile devices.  A trend that is not likely to diminish.

Jefferson Airplane + Grace Slick: White RabbitFrom Gerard Vanderleun: Jefferson Airplane: White Rabbit.  "One pill makes you smaller, and one pill makes you tall, and the ones your Mother gives you, don't do anything at all...Excellent.

Mindblower of the day week month from Paul Graham: How you know.  "Reading and experience train your model of the world. And even if you forget the experience or what you read, its effect on your model of the world persists. Your mind is like a compiled program you've lost the source of. It works, but you don't know why."


where to start

Wednesday,  12/17/14  10:15 PM

eyesFinder!I've been heads' down coding away, and this advice from Seth Godin hit me at the perfect time: Where to start.  "Begin with the smallest possible project in which someone will pay you money to solve a problem they know they have. Charge less than it's worth and more than it costs you.  Repeat.

This is great advice; we started eyesFinder on this track but we got away from it a little bit.  Time to get back.


Thursday,  12/18/14  09:31 PM

Another solid day of coding ... and so the Ole filter makes a pass ...

Marissa Mayer: can she save Yahoo!John Gruber comments on an interesting article about Marissa Mayer, an excerpt from a book to be called Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo!.  "In many ways, Yahoo’s decline from a $128 billion company to one worth virtually nothing is entirely natural. Yahoo grew into a colossus by solving a problem that no longer exists."  No company can stay in one business forever, but successful companies leverage each success into the resources needed for the next one.  I can remember when Yahoo! was amazing, the Google of its day.

By the way the headline is terrible; there's nothing to suggest Marissa Mayer tried to be Steve Jobs.

Phil Greenspun wonders Why is it hard for Yahoo! to make more money?  "Is it really the case that the superheroes at Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Uber have used up all the oxygen?  It feels to me as though there is a lot of low-hanging fruit for a company with Yahoo's resources."  Same.

One more thought about Yahoo!: they certainly have a lot of talent.  They've acquired tens of great startups over the years, with hundreds of innovative entrepreneurs and engineers.  There must be a cultural flaw that keeps these people from being productive inside Yahoo!.

Scott Johnson considers Sportsmanship's Luck.  "Based on the evidence Clark presents, I'm going out on a limb to solve this mystery. I’m guessing that that's not trash talk. The concept represented by Luck's conduct has fallen so far out of favor that no one even offers it up. I believe it's called sportsmanship."  Go Colts!

Hehe: Ayn Rand reviews kids movies.  "Mary Poppins:  A woman takes a job with a wealthy family without asking for money in exchange for her services. An absurd premise. Later, her employer leaves a lucrative career in banking in order to play a children's game. -No stars."  I love it.

the IceBarYay!  Inhabitat reports The IceBar is back.  Check out those pictures ... how cool is that?  :)


Merry Christmas

Thursday,  12/25/14  11:55 AM

Merry Christmas!Hiya blog public, Merry Christmas!

Our family celebrates Christmas on Christmas Eve, and last night we had a fabulous dinner with friends and family, and exchanged gifts, and ate [way too much] candy.  And today we rest; watch a little football and a couple of movies.  And we reflect on the year behind and the year ahead.  And we blog.

Each year December seems to fly by; at first you think you have weeks before Christmas but then boom the time has passed and the parties and celebrations and shopping are all a blur, and Christmas has come.  And then you have a pleasant little week between Christmas and New Years to slow down and think.  This year is just like that for me, only more so.  So much to think about, somehow.  I've been looking forward to having nothing to do so I could do it :)

I hope you have an equally nice day and week, and a Happy New Year, and a great 2015...


Thursday,  12/25/14  01:01 PM

Catching up with recent events ... a quiet time of the year :) ...

man controls artificial arms wired into his nervesLove this: Man controls two prosthetic arms with his mind.  This technology is amazing to help those who are handicapped of course, but someday it will be available to all of us, and seamless integration of external devices into our nerves will seem commonplace.  USB 8.0 :)

Seth Goden wonders who let the air our of the balloon?  "The market has been offered infinity. Instead of a narrow, scarce selection of hits, those that consume media can have all of it, all the time. The long tail plus bite-sized pieces plus constant snacking."  It's pretty interesting how much things have changed over the past 10 years.  The first 10 years of the internet concentrated everything, but the next 10 years blew it all apart.  And now we have mobile devices...

Apropos to a quiet week ahead, Philip Greenspun shares his reading listDept. of Speculation looks intriguing!  Oh, and to this list please add John Scalzi's Lock-in.

the Great EasternRemembering the last Victorian Leviathan Steam Ship.  "The Great Eastern was built in 1858, and was capable of bringing 4,000 people around the world without ever once needing to refuel."  Amazing.  This is a great time to be alive, but I regret missing the golden age of ships.  Maybe someday we'll have space ships just like them!

John Gruber shares the perfect thought for Christmas: Merry.


5,200 days in space

Saturday,  12/27/14  09:37 PM

Did you know?  We've had humans in space now continuously for fourteen years, ever since November 2000, when the International Space Stations was first occupied.  The Atlantic has a great article about how this came to pass.

Just about every American ninth-grader has never lived a moment without astronauts soaring overhead, living in space. But chances are, most ninth-graders don’t know the name of a single active astronaut—many don’t even know that Americans are up there. We've got a permanent space colony, inaugurated a year before the setting of the iconic movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s a stunning achievement, and it’s completely ignored.

The article includes some great pictures of the ISS:

The ISS costs as much to run as a carrier battle group.  In the long run, it's a most worthwhile investment.  In 200 years, who will care about a carrier battle group (or even know what they were?)  But space stations might be our lifeline to the universe.


Wild Oats

Tuesday,  12/30/14  09:33 PM


(please click to enbiggen)

Congrats to Wild Oats, the 100' supermaxi racing yacht which was first to finish in the Sidney-to-Hobart race for a record eighth time, edging out brand new rival Comanche (in the picture about Wild Oats is on the left, Comanche on the right).  Is there anything cooler than watching these huge machines racing in heavy winds?  No.



Tuesday,  12/30/14  10:50 PM

Wrapping up a day of college bowl watching (and eating) ... the Ole filter makes a pass.

jellyfish!Gorgeous underwater photos of jellyfish.  Wow!  These creatures seem designed to be beautiful.  Kind of like the animal version of flowers.

Kwanzaa: TV Station reports on non-existent parade for imaginary Holiday.  Yeah, this pretty much speaks for itself.

John Cleese explains stupidity and why the truly stupied lack the capacity to realize how stupid they are.  Ditto.

At Teslarati, Rob M reflects on the year of the Model S.  There is such a great community of Tesla owners online, and Teslarati are a nice part of it.  Subscribed!


portraits of time

Tuesday,  12/30/14  11:02 PM

Portraits of time: black-and-white photographs of ancient trees from around the world.  Wow!

I remember visiting the Bristlecone Pine forest in the White Mountains a few years ago; that was amazing.  Trees over 4,000 years old, which have existed since long before Jesus, and almost since before recorded time.  Spooky and cool. 

A perfect way to end the year and start the next one!


Happy Old Year: 2014

Wednesday,  12/31/14  12:25 PM

2014!Hi blog public!

Sorry I've been out.  (Yikes, two months!)  I've been coding ... :P  (Too much perhaps?) ... anyway it's Old Year's Day 2014, and so I decided to mix a little blogging in with my football watching and not-coding.  So stay tuned for a deluge.  Or possibly a steady drizzle.

My Strava year-in-review videoEvery year ends with a plethora of year-in-review stories, and now every site you use for any purpose will helpfully create a year-in-review video for you.  (Here's my Strava year-in-review video, of cycling activity; it's cool except for the fact that all the pictures and movies aren't of me, so ... yeah, not that cool.)

I'm going to compile my own little year-in-review, as a series of blog posts.  Should be fun ... stay tuned!

(First a little Yak-shaving; I *had* to perfect the CSS for rounded corners and drop-shadows on pictures.  Amazingly this seems like it works on Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and ... even IE!  You're welcome.)


Return to the archive.

this date in:
About Me

Greatest Hits
Correlation vs. Causality
The Tyranny of Email
Unnatural Selection
On Blame
Try, or Try Not
Books and Wine
Emergent Properties
God and Beauty
Moving Mount Fuji
The Nest
Rock 'n Roll
IQ and Populations
Are You a Bright?
Adding Value
The Joy of Craftsmanship
The Emperor's New Code
Toy Story
The Return of the King
Religion vs IQ
In the Wet
solving bongard problems
visiting Titan
unintelligent design
the nuclear option
estimating in meatspace
second gear
On the Persistence of Bad Design...
Texas chili cookoff
almost famous design and stochastic debugging
may I take your order?
universal healthcare
triple double
New Yorker covers
Death Rider! (da da dum)
how did I get here (Mt.Whitney)?
the Law of Significance
Holiday Inn
Daniel Jacoby's photographs
the first bird
Gödel Escher Bach: Birthday Cantatatata
Father's Day (in pictures)
your cat for my car
Jobsnotes of note
world population map
no joy in Baker
vote smart
exact nonsense
introducing eyesFinder
to space
where are the desktop apps?
still the first bird
electoral fail
progress ratches
2020 explained